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Little Bitty Steps

(The Small Things I’m Doing to Decrease Overwhelm)

So, it’s been longer than planned since I did a post about burnout, because… I’ve been in burnout.

I’m doing passably well, but one reason for that is that I’m honoring my energy levels, and I am privileged enough to be able to structure most of what I need to do around that. I’ve also been able to take some things off the table for now, and push towards being more low demand in my lifestyle to allow more time for rebuilding my energy stores.

As I’ve written before, this isn’t my first rodeo with burnout. It is the first time I’ve really understood how autism has played into burnout, and how needing to fluctuate around my energy levels is an all the time, forever type of thing.

In lieu of writing the article on burnout recovery that I had planned, I'm mixing it up into smaller posts that will include scientific literature about burnout recovery, resources and support, and a new series I'm starting called Little Bitty Steps that will cover the small steps I am taking to reduce my stress, as well as ideas that have been helpful to others.

Today, I’m going to talk about email.

I have several things I’m doing to reduce this input, but to be very clear, I am doing these things one at a time and in small time increments. I’ll get into that a little as I discuss each step.

First, I do have several email addresses—one is personal, one is general business, and one is specifically for clients and/or sensitive information as it has more security. I also have one for my non-therapy business items.

This is too many emails to be able to look at regularly (for me).

Step 1: As I go through emails in the morning, I spend 15 minutes or so for both personal and business emails.

I do have files for emails, so as I go, I will file emails into the folder that fits them (i.e., bills/receipts for my business), or in my To Do folder.

As I’m doing this, I delete any emails that I can read quickly and have no need for.

And my new thing I’m doing in this time is looking at emails I have signed up for that I have not been reading. This is a sign to me that as much as I would likely love the material, it is not in the top priority right now, and if it’s been months with no reading, it must go. So, I unsubscribe.

This can seem like a huge undertaking, and it can very well be. Which is why, 15 minutes for personal/15minutes for business is all I’m willing to do. Slowly, over the course of a few months, my new emails have dropped, and the ones that I do get I am reading and enjoying.

Step 2: Once a week (right now it’s Tuesdays, but it can generally flex), I am spending 15 minutes creating rules in my email so that my bills/receipts automatically go into the appropriate file. This is slowly creating less work for me that can be automated.

Again, I’m doing this slowly, just a few at a time, so that I don’t get overwhelmed.

Step 3: Once a week I go into my To Do folder and attend to any business that needs to be done, and then delete the emails.

Step 4: I have a few newsletters from people I’m interested in, and I have those go straight to a “To Read Newsletter” folder. So, when I have some time, I’ll go in and read them and then delete them.

And any newsletters I haven’t taken the time to read in 3-4 months, I’ll unsubscribe.

As for the one side business email, I’m still working on what to do with that. Luckily it doesn’t get a TON of emails, but I’m still working on if having it at all makes sense.

It’s a work in progress. Which is OK. Getting used to things not being completed is one of the major reframes I'm working on, so that I don't avoid doing anything because I can't do it all right now.

My hope is that once I get the folders automated and unsubscribed from the lists/emails/businesses I don’t use, I should be able to run through my email in 5-10 minutes in the morning.

I’ll update on the success of that.

My point in general, is that we all have things that are inundating us with too many messages. Or too much demand (to read, to listen, to do, to buy, to keep up with). And weaning that down to the necessities (and the truly joyful bits), can bring down the level just a tiny bit.

Now if I can just get better at keeping up with my therapy notes!

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